MADISON, NJ- The Madison Downtown Development Commission (DDC) has approved funding for the town’s first "Madison Storytellers Festival" to be held on June 11 in the downtown.

"The festival has been approved and created with a vision to aggregate in one place on one day Madison’s unique arts and culture community for celebration, performance, readings, and interactive and arts education events, showcasing Madison’s unique qualities as a creative and cultural destination," said Lisa Ellis of the DDC.

"The current plan is to have a main stage under the railroad trestle on Green Village Road, closed off between Main Street and Kings Road from 10a.m. – 4p.m. and additional stages at the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, Short Stories Bookshop and Arts Hub, and Drip Coffee," added Ellis

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The festival is free and open to the public followed by evening music at Short Stories Bookshop and Arts Hub at 23 Main Street, from 4:00p.m - 6p.m.

Local merchants throughout downtown will be encouraged to offer special sidewalk sales and special activities. After the festival, visitors are encouraged to enjoy a summer evening downtown, taking advantage of the dining, culture and shops in Madison’s vibrant downtown.

Madison Mayor Bob Conley believes there’s a great deal that’s special about Madison. "But there are two things our community does exceptionally well,” he said, “We attract and foster high quality arts and culture, and we regularly come together as a community of volunteers. With these two unique qualities in our community, I’m thrilled to see how the first Madison Storytellers Festival is coming to life, thank all volunteers, extend a hearty welcome to our guest artists and visitors, and hope that all enjoy what Madison has to offer.”

The event will be supported by the Madison DDC and local sponsors, in partnership with the Madison Arts & Culture Alliance and the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

Fully planned and staffed by volunteers, stages will feature opening remarks by Madison Mayor Honorable Robert H. Conley, who will share highlights of his own oral history of growing up in Madison. Contributors to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love Made Me Do ItNational Geographic, The New York Times bestselling novelist Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, on the heels of the May 31st release of her new novel JUNE, special interviews led by Bonnie Monte of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and John Pietrowski of Writer’s Theatre of New Jersey, and more will also share their work. 

The Museum of Early Trades and Crafts lawn and Green Village Road itself will feature special crafts and interactive arts events as well as vendor tables available for literary and arts organizations and businesses. Arts activity stations and three ‘stages’ of interviews, music, poetry, literary readings, dance, oral history, visual arts – from celebrity to professional to amateur to interactive/education workshops – will showcase diversity of offerings and experiences.

"If you’ve spent any amount of time in Madison, New Jersey, on the train line to New York City’s Penn Station, you know its unique distinction as an arts and culture destination. Named a top school district for music education and proud home of the critically acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the town has somehow preserved not only its stunning historic architecture, but also the vibrant offerings of an arts and crafts history museum, a top 50 jazz club, a rare and used bookshop, and three universities, while also yielding a new indie bookshop and arts hub, literary presses, a hat shop, a knitting shop, a comic book shop, and numerous arts and dance studios," explains Conley.

"Yet the real treasure is in Madison’s community of talent -- the students, families, educators, and people across interests and industries who share a passion for – or, in many cases, hold notable careers in – writing, publishing, film, television, photography, music -- and are drawn to the town’s unique environment of creativity and expression. The festival plans to showcase that talent as well," said Ellis.

“Storytelling is the expression of who we are, who we were, and who we hope to be. It is both experience and identity, and is what brings us together as a culture,” shared Dan Blank, owner of WeGrowMedia and a founding member of the festival Steering Committee. Editor and Publisher of Atticus Press Dan Cafaro added, “It’s critical that each of us is empowered to tell our stories — to express our vision of who we are as individuals, and how we fit together as a whole.” Blank and Cafaro are coordinating the creative agenda for the day.

Deb Starker, Executive Director of the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts and President of the Madison Arts and Culture Alliance (MACA), was thrilled to join Blank and Cafaro on the Steering Committee, along with Barb Short of Short Stories Bookshop and Arts Hub, John Pietrowski, of Writers Theatre of NJ, Melanie Tomaszewski of Madison Mud, and Bonnie Monte, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey to help organize the event.

Starker commented, “The Madison Storytellers Festival celebrates the storytellers in our community, and hopes to inspire all who attend to craft their own stories, in the medium of their choice. The museum and MACA are proud to support.”

Short and Starker also serve as Commissioners on the Madison DDC.

To volunteer, sponsor, or simply stay up to the minute as the festival plans unfold, visit storytellersfestival.org or like the festivalsFacebook page by searching Madison Storytellers Festival.  As well you can email Lisa Ellis of the DDC at ddc@rosnet.org.